STAR PREVIEW: Europa League Semi-Finals

We preview tonight’s two Europa League semi-final matches featuring Chelsea and Arsenal – both games kick off at 8pm. We have recommended bets in both games – the Star Sports tipping column is now showing a 266 point profit since Jan 2017.


EINTRACHT FRANKFURT V CHELSEA

For all its ups and downs, Maurizio Sarri’s season at Chelsea could still end up being a success if he managed to seal European football again. We don’t know if he’ll make the top four at home, but victory in the Europa League would give the Blues not only a trophy but also a place in the Champions League again.

They must beat Eintracht Frankfurt over two legs to get there, and that will be a significantly harder challenge than they’ve faced so far. The hosts took the DFB Cup last season, their first trophy for 30 years, and they have kicked on domestically. They currently sit fourth in the Bundesliga, and have been very impressive in the Europa League themselves.

They took maximum points from a group featuring Marseille and Lazio and have made light work of the toughest run possible. Chelsea are the first side they’ll face that hasn’t dropped from the Champions League – they’ve beaten Shakhtar, Inter and Benfica to get here.

Chelsea have won all six knockout matches against Malmo, Dynamo Kyiv and Slavia Prague, and their key form figures have generally found life in the Europa League more enjoyable than the Premier League. Oliver Giroud is the top scorer in the Europa League with 10 goals, Wilian has seven assists, and Reuben Loftus-Cheek has made persuasive arguments to get more game time through this competition.

Sarri will also call upon Eden Hazard for the moments of quality he can provide, like his winner in the away leg against Prague, and Pedro has generally been more effective too.

Sarri has a full cohort to choose from apart from Callum Hudson-Odoi, but Frankfurt coach Adi Hutter has two big absences to deal with. Ante Rebic and Sebastien Haller are suspended and injured, which takes away two of Frankfurt’s top attacking talents. Luka Jovic has scored 25 this season but as a trio, him Rebic and Haller have scored 54 goals and Chelsea will be relieved to have only one threat to deal with.

Sarri’s men have taken all before them in the Europa League but their away record at top opposition doesn’t bode too well for them. From six visits to Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham, Arsenal, Everton and Manchester United, they’ve taken just one point and whilst they fought hard for their point at Old Trafford, a David de Gea howler was responsible for Marcos Alonso’s well taken goal.

Eintracht Frankfurt v Chelsea
UEFA Europa League Semi-Final 1st Leg
20:00 BT Sport 3 HD

HEAD TO HEAD RECORD
(Maximum 10 matches)
First meeting between sides

Finding a bet for this game is difficult, but Frankfurt have failed to find the net in only four of 44 competitive matches this season and will feel confident, even with absentees, of scoring once again. Perhaps both sides might find the net, and that could be the way to play it.


ARSENAL V VALENCIA

Much like Chelsea, Arsenal’s best chance of qualifying for the Champions League might be – ironically – to win the Europa. The market has them as a shorter price to make the top four in the Premier League, although their dire away form – they face Burnley on the last day – could still cost them a place in the top four.

They are a different beast at home, however. Their 2-0 win against Napoli made it 11 home wins on the spin, and this season they’ve won 14 of their 18 home games in the Premier League as well as keeping a 100%-win rate in the Europa League here. Indeed, their European form has very much mimicked their domestic form – they lost 1-0 to BATE Borisov in the round of 32 and 3-1 to Stade Rennais in the round of 16, and both occasions they turned things around at the Emirates in the return leg, winning both games 3-0.

Emery’s sent out strong sides in the Europa League and he can call upon Nacho Monreal and Mesut Ozil, which softens the blow of losing Aaron Ramsey, who might well have played his last game in an Arsenal shirt following a bad hamstring strain in Naples.

Valencia’s aim here will be to stay in the game. They too can smell Champions League football – they’re just three points adrift of Getafe with three games left – and they’re unbeaten in six Europa League knockout games. However, this will be a great deal tougher than facing Villarreal in the quarters and they could find a lack of firepower hindering them. Their leading scorer this season is Daniel Parejo, who has just nine goals, and they will miss both Denis Cheryshev and Geoffrey Kondogbia in midfield.

Arsenal v Valencia
UEFA Europa League Semi-Final 1st Leg
20:00 BT Sport 1 HD / BT Sport UHD

HEAD TO HEAD RECORD
(Maximum 10 matches)
MAR 2003 CHAMPIONS LEAGUE Valencia 2-1 Arsenal
DEC 2002 CHAMPIONS LEAGUE Arsenal 0-0 Valencia
APR 2001 CHAMPIONS LEAGUE Valencia 1-0 Arsenal
APR 2001 CHAMPIONS LEAGUE Arsenal 2-1 Valencia

Whist Ramsey will be missed, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang give Emery the option of playing two deadly strikers or simply having one with the other on the bench. Emery will – Aaron Ramsey aside – have the same team that was so comprehensive in victory over Napoli, and with more firepower available to him on home ground, he can take a lead to Spain.


RECOMMENDED BETS (scale of 1-100 points)
BACK BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE (EINTRACHT FRANKFURT V CHELSEA) 5 pts at 3/4 with starsports.bet
BACK ARSENAL (ARSENAL v VALENCIA) 5 pts at 11/10 with starsports.bet


PROFIT/LOSS SINCE JAN 1 2017: PROFIT 266.92 points
(excluding Premier League ante-post, Wells Fargo)